Before considering how to motivate people, we have to
settle two important questions.
1) What is motivation in the Christian context?
2) What does a motivated person look like?
The answer we give to these questions will absolutely
limit and channel our efforts to motivate others. My suggested definition of
People are motivated when they are convinced
of the correctness and the urgency of Christian goals to the
extent that they are eager to act, and keep acting, to reach
those goals regardless of what others do or think.
In the early stages of motivation, people may also need
emotional support or arousal from others to promote action. But we cannot say
people are motivated in the true sense unless they carry on for their own reasons,
with, or without support from others. Likewise, those who act without understanding
why they act may be motivated according to the world, but not according to the
Bible. Unless we work through people's understanding and consent, we may be
manipulating rather than motivating.
A. Convincing people our goals are right
- They must understand what our goals are, and
why we hold them.
- They should be able to articulate reasons for
- They should understand and know Scripture that
teaches specifically on goals they are pursuing.
- Therefore, a good discipler understands the theory
of Christian growth and ministry at a deep level.
- A good motivator tells others what is right,
but also shows them how to discover what is right for themselves through
good hermeneutics and Bible study, as well as reasonable and prayerful
analysis of situations.
- Motivating others Includes wisdom in applying
biblical principles to their lives:
- Such wisdom requires Preparation
- Motivating others requires time reflecting about the person's
present state and needed change. In prayer, we ask God what the
next steps should be in the person's life.
- A good analogy is building a fire. You don't
strike the match until you have gathered all the things you needkindling,
small sticks, larger wood.
- We often see people doing things they don't
understand because of the personal magnetism of a leader. This is inadequate,
and dangerous, because it depends on human inspiration rather than spiritual
inspiration. While it might be alright for young Christians to live
this way, try to move quickly toward a more mature motivational base.
Always try to make sure people understand what they are doing and why.
- Just because the Bible teaches something doesn't
mean people will necessarily practice it.
- The skillful discipler is a persuader who is
able to convince others using
- Good arguments
- Good antitheses
- Good illustrations
- Good demeanor
- Again, we don't want to see people doing things
they would rather not do because of social pressure or magnetic personalities.
They must become convinced in their own right that God's way is best.
- The role of emotional arousal
- When working with new Christians, leaders may, at
times, have to use techniques of emotional arousal or at least powerful
emotional support in order encourage action. However, I believe this
should only be done the first time or two that our people try something
new and (to them) scary. After that, leaders may use encouragement,
which is a form of emotional support, but even this should gradually
become unnecessary most of the time.
- Be careful not to overuse emotional arousal and
support techniques, because your people will have to eventually do
without this support in large measure. Here we see a difference between
duplication approaches to ministry and static, or linear growth approaches.
If I assume my people will more or less always be in my group, I am
more willing to depend on emotional arousal, because I know if they
need it in the future I can supply it again. But if I assume my people
are going to leave me and go into their own group, I have to hold
out for a higher level of motivation where emotional arousal or support
is not necessary in order to secure motivation. In other words, motivation
becomes internally generated, not externally stimulated.
B. Convincing people of the urgency of our goals
- Some models are followed and some are not. Why?
- Why do some models create more excitement for their
way of life than others?
- One reason is how much integrity people perceive in
a model. Models with more perceived integrity will be followed more
- People tend to follow models who have invested in
them more than disengaged models. We should "fervently love one
another from the heart," according to Peter, and if we do, we will
be more powerful as models.
- Another issue is whether people perceive that a model's
way of life leads to reward or to punishment. Studies show that people
will not usually follow models they perceive as being punished for their
way of life. Remember, punishment is a matter of interpretation, and
it is possible for a leader to suffer without feeling punished.
- People follow models who are passionate more than
those who are unemotional about their way of life. Learn to put passion
into your life, and you will become a more influential leader.
- People follow models for reasons other than immediate
reward or personal advantage. Convincing research shows that followers
of strong leaders don't care about remuneration or "what's in it
for me." They are prepared to sacrifice to an extraordinary degree,
partly because they perceive that their models, or leaders are prepared
to sacrifice themselves. This high level of commitment to Christian
goals, including personal sacrifice, is a key component in effective
- Models are not followed when people lose confidence
in them. Loss of confidence occurs when models are discredited, not
necessarily when they fail. As Gallup says, "People admire leaders
more for what they try to do than what the actually do." Dishonesty
or self-aggrandizement (perceived seeking of personal advantage from
being a leader) heavily discredit models.
- Direct influence
- Casting Vision - We spend time imagining with
God how the other person could enjoy a better futureThis involves
thinking about the other when we are not with them and intercessory
- Scripture teaches that we may have to call
people to move out on what they know is right. We cannot always assume
people will take hints, or draw the right conclusions. Scripture and
experience show that leaders need to sometimes make specific requests
of people before they will act.
- Challenging people indirectly
is evident in Christ and Paul's ministries. For instance, Paul
would tell about his own life and values, or point out the good works
of the churches in Macedonia (2 Cor. 8)
- Modeling behaviors for the purpose of influence
is great stimulus. Try to take your disciple out and let them see you
witness, or let them see how you follow up with a new person in home
- Reading response: When challenging or calling
someone, the leader needs to be sensitive enough to read how they are
responding. Based on that response, the leader either withdraws or advances.
- Returning to our analogy of building a fire, we
see a fair comparison. A small fire that is sputtering should not
have more fuel added. Only when we sense the fire is advancing do
we add more and larger sticks. Likewise, leaders learn to move toward
responsiveness with more ideas for progressing, and to retreat from
- Exhorting Positive Movement
- When we encourage those who are already moving along
lines that will result in spiritual growth, it shows the importance
we place on these goals, and adds to the person's emotional strength
- Encouragement is highly effective in sustaining action,
but far less so at initiating action.
- We should never miss an opportunity to encourage in
the early stages of action in any desirable direction. However, within
a fairly short period we should move to only periodic encouragement.
This is because periodic encouragement is actually more effective than
consistent encouragement (an intermittent, or variable interval reinforcement).
- Devise different ways to encourage:
- Indirectly by mobilizing others (someone comments
that a person's comment at home church was helpful, and you urge
them to tell the person)
- Publicly. To express admiration in the presence
of others has far more effect than doing so privately.
- Mentioning specific details that were impressive
leaves a stronger impression.
- Reserving encouragement for actual progress, not
for routine accomplishment
- Encouragement in writing seems to have special
impact at times. Sending a card of appreciation stands out as different.
C. Problem resolution - overcoming hurdles to motivation
- Scripture teaches we may need to reprove or rebuke
in addition to instructing and calling
- Prepare for reproof by carefully thinking about
each of the following:
Reasons why the person needs to have a change of heart
Measures the person can take to overcome a sin problem
Consequences that will result if the person fails to change
Benefits that will result if the person does change
Vision for what the person can be if they mature
- Choose a place and timenot in public, not where
interruptions will occur
- Adjust for retiring or compliant vs. resistant
- Ironically, we may need to be more directive
for retiring personalities, and less for resistant personalities
- Whether we are calling or rebuking someone, we
should always do it with respect for the person's individuality,
never with pestering or browbeating
D. Nurturing Ongoing Motivation
- When people continue to act but are no longer
reinforced much, a crisis may result. The person begins to wonder why
they are living this way if no one appreciates it. This crisis may be
very acute if most of their motivation has been based on human emotional
support, or if they have little understanding of why they do what they
do, or if they have little personal conviction
- At this point, we may need to enter into a counseling
process to help the person understand his or her own feelings as they
shift away from a wrong to a right motivational base. This period really
involves a weaning process where people learn to live based on what
God wants rather than for social reasons.
When our people are motivated in a thorough and biblical way,
rather than a superficial way based on "monkey see, monkey do" or
a fad mentality, true duplication and group replication become possible. But
if we depend on sociological manipulation, people will lose their motivation
the minute we let them out of our sight, and we will not dare to release them
into their own ministries.
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to Christian Leadership